Lovely Body is Well Positioned in the Digital World, and Looking to Expand Here at HomeBy Nancy Saunders
Located at 264 Red River Road in Thunder Bay, Lovely Body sells soap, shampoo and conditioner bars, bath bombs, lotions, body scrubs, shaving cream, hand sanitizer, deodorant and more, all manufactured on-site. Owner Sarah Johnston started the home-based business in 2012 through her desire for soap and body products that contain ingredients that are safe and familiar. Lovely Body started as an Etsy shop and before long became the number one Canadian seller in the Bath and Body category, and was in the top 100 worldwide.
In 2014, Johnston left a career in nursing to pursue Lovely Body full-time. She closed the Etsy shop and began selling products on Lovely Body’s own website using Shopify. In 2016, Johnston opened Lovely Body’s first location on St. Paul Street. “When I first made the transition from Etsy into a local shop, the business was pretty well-known in the Etsy world and we did a ton of shipping worldwide. Now it is more locally based; a lot of people wander down on their Saturday (back when we could do that). We have a good balance of people who use us for special self-care treats, and also a lot of our products are everyday essentials for people, things like the soap bars and shampoo bars. It’s a good mix, and we find our sales are significantly local,” says Johnston.
In 2018, Lovely Body moved into its Red River Road location and Johnston has some exciting plans. “We’re currently working on expanding our space into the one next door. The plan is to expand the storefront back a little bit to expand our offerings, then the space next door will be mostly for manufacturing.”
Johnston formulates and manufactures all products on-site in her workshop located at the back of the shop. “One of my full-time assistants helps manufacture some things. It is primarily my staff that finish things—wrap things and label them. Seemingly simple things, like putting lids on and stuff, that are really, really important to the manufacturing of the product.”
Having started on Etsy and quickly thriving as an online business, Lovely Body was no stranger to e-commerce and social media marketing. When COVID-19 hit, Johnston was well-positioned. “We were very lucky that when things were starting to shut down, we were already positioned to carry on with online sales and contactless pick-ups. We didn’t have to do too much to get lined up like that.” Johnston feels very fortunate during a time that has been a major struggle for many businesses.
Lovely Body is well-known for its gorgeous product photos and write-ups, as Johnston knows the importance of these features in selling products online. “Photos and descriptions help set customer expectations,” says Johnston. Lovely Body’s social media channels often feature videos of Johnston creating gorgeous patterns in vibrantly coloured soaps. “People love watching the videos of the soap-making process. I typically post how we’re making soap or if something fun happened in the shop.”
Lovely Body used the Digital Main Street Grant to increase efficiency of in-store sales. “(The grant) came at a perfect time for us, during the pandemic. We changed our shop to be a general store, so we weren’t letting people in to browse and touch things. We wanted to keep the risk down as low as we could, while also getting people through as quickly as we could,” says Johnston. The grant went toward the purchase of a second till with an iPad and QR scanner, which has made it easier to do things like track inventory and provide greater efficiency with customer purchases.
Johnston shares that the DMS training showed her how to set up the analytics on her website. “I wasn’t really sure how to do that before, so that was really helpful. I have found sometimes with Shopify that unless you know what you’re looking for, it may not necessarily suggest what to do. The Digital Main Street training was easy and straightforward.”
Lovely Body also used the grant to team up with Sociable Thunder Bay, a local company that specialized in digital marketing and community events. “They did videos and photography for us, and that was really great. It was really nice because we also got to support a fellow local business, keeping it in town,” says Johnston.
In addition to Lovely Body’s website and storefront, products are carried at several stores in and around Thunder Bay. Johnston tries to be selective with where she stocks her product, saying she does not want her market to become oversaturated. Products can be found at Ungalli Clothing Company, Waxxed Candle Co./Kraft, The Sweet North Bakery, Sleeping Giant Brewing Co., Bill Martin’s Nurseryland, The Refill Co. in Murillo, and Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. “We’ve got some custom stuff with Rose N Crantz Roasting. Many of these places have custom stuff because then it’s unique to them, too. It is cool being able to customize for different businesses and their different identities. The Refill Co. takes our usual stock but I give it to them unwrapped, so they offer naked bars of soap and naked bath bombs.”
“We were able to pivot and start manufacturing hand sanitizer, and it gave us another opportunity to reach out to the community, help out where we could. We did a whole bunch of hand sanitizer donations as well. We’re really lucky and we’re doing pretty good,” Johnston says.